Pastor Gary Ray

In this 2014 photo, Pastor Gary Ray, of Oso Community Chapel, stands in front of equipment that has been donated to start a church on Camano Island.

A pastor trusted by many on Camano Island and in Oso has been charged with first-degree theft, according to the Island County Prosecutor’s Office.

Gary J. Ray, 56, of Arlington was charged Oct. 5 in Island County Superior Court for three counts of diverting donations for his own use, with “no intention” of distributing them. In each instance, prosecutors allege aggravating circumstances because of his position of trust.

At the Oso Community Chapel, following the 2014 mudslide that killed 43 people, Ray is accused of stealing $40,000 in donations for the chapel and affected families. At least $6,000 also was reported taken from Restoration Church Camano, which Ray started and where he worked after being fired in 2014 from the Oso church, according to charging documents.

The investigation started on Camano when the Island County Sheriff’s Office was contacted in August 2017 with concerns of possible theft from the church. Investigators later learned about the Oso loss and an earlier problem with a church in California, according to reports.

Ray admitted he collected money under false pretenses at both local churches and transferred it into his personal bank account with no intention of using the money for the reasons given to donors, according to the investigative reports.

As pastor on Camano, Ray wrote several Meditation columns published in the Stanwood Camano News. In one from January 2015, Ray wrote, “… success should be pursued. … The prevailing view links success with wealth and status.”

Ray was expected to appear Monday, Oct. 22, in court for possible arraignment. He could face 10 years in prison or a $20,000 fine or both on each count.

UPDATE, Oct. 22: According a report from KOMO-TV, the arraignment was postponed.

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